Florida baseball fights past mid-week losses, earns impressive sweep of Mizzou in Gainesville

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 12 Florida Gators baseball ended a rough week on a high note by sweeping its third-straight Southeastern Conference home series.

It looked like any momentum Florida had from last week’s sweep of Georgia had faded when UF dropped back-to-back mid-week home games to the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-1) and Florida A&M Rattlers (4-3).

The Gators (30-15, 15-6 SEC) managed to turn things around over the weekend against the Missouri Tigers (19-24, 6-15 SEC), complementing standout performances on the mound with terrific run support at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida baseball fights past mid-week losses, earns impressive sweep of Mizzou in Gainesville

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SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

1 » Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has long held up former South African president Nelson Mandela as one of his idols. So for Noah to easily have his best game of the 2013-14 season on the day of Mandela’s passing was certainly no surprise. On Thursday, Noah posted his second-straight double-double with 17 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) and a season-high 15 rebounds in a 107-87 win over Miami. After the contest, he was interviewed by TNT’s Craig Sager and ended the conversation like this:

2 » The Florida Gators are expected to have major frontcourt troubles next season with big-bodied seniors – center Patric Young and forwards Casey Prather and Will Yeguete – all scheduled to graduate. One of its other big men is on shaky ground and a fifth, who has yet to enroll, could be a one-and-done player. Facing a potential roster that would have its two tallest players – current redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and five-star incoming F Devin Robinson (Christchurch, VA) listed as 6-foot-8 – the Gators may have found some help in the form of current Duke redshirt sophomore F Alex Murphy. The brother of Erik Murphy, Alex has decided to leave the Blue Devils at the end of the fall 2013 semester and may very well be headed to Gainesville, FL. He would have to sit out two semesters per NCAA rules and would not be eligible until next spring, but Alex Murphy would nevertheless be a much-needed addition for UF. OnlyGators.com is still working to confirm his transfer destination as of press time.

3 » Florida found another way to disappoint its fans this week. In a story overlooked for the last few days by OnlyGators.com, UF’s basketball team made headlines by displacing 50 passengers on an Atlanta, GA-bound Sunday flight when Delta decided to help the Gators by chartering a new plane for the team to Storrs, CT for its showdown with UConn. According to The Gainesville Sun, a maintenance delay grounded the plane that the team usually charters, so Delta stepped in to help at the expense of customers that had already purchased tickets on the flight. “Passengers from flight 5059 were accommodated on other flights and given vouchers valid for use through Delta for future trips,” a spokesman told the paper. Florida has gone above and beyond to try and deflect any blame heading its way. The Gators have claimed ignorance regarding Delta’s decision, which he company took completely on its own shoulders.

Check out the statement and three more BITS…after the break!

Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Noah, Murphy, Delta, volleyball, Tebow

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TWO BITS: Georgia Southern, Tip-Off, Chandler

1 » A previously published piece of film from the Florida Gators’ 2011 game against Tennessee has CBS’s broadcasters noting that head coach Will Muschamp, while an assistant at LSU, told Nick Saban that their team should not schedule the Georgia Southern Eagles due to the team’s difficult-to-defend triple option offense.

“Remember when Will told us about Nick Saban? … Will said that there was an opportunity to play Georgia Southern [while] at LSU. And WIll Muschamp said, ‘We don’t want to do it.’ And he spoke to Nick and Nick didn’t know what Georgia Southern did and said, ‘Yeah, no problem, that sounds good.’ And then Will said, ‘Nick, come here, I want to show you this triple option.’ Nick watched three plays, marched down to the AD’s office and said, ‘We’re not playing Georgia Southern.'”

The game against the Eagles was actually scheduled for the Gators while Urban Meyer was head coach of the program in May 2010. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley was classmates with Georgia Southern AD Sam Baker at Ohio University (both earned master’s degrees in sports administration in 1976) and thought the game would be a good idea. Baker resigned in July 2012 after leading the program for 17 years.

Continue Reading » TWO BITS: Georgia Southern, Tip-Off, Chandler

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Fastbreak: No. 15 Gators chomp Dolphins 86-60

No. 13/15 Florida Gators basketball (5-1) won its fourth-straight game by ripping through the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-4) on Monday evening at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. Florida topped Jacksonville 86-60 for its most dominant victory – and first road win – of the season in a contest highlighted by the return of senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin following a six-game suspension.

OnlyGators.com breaks down the Gators’ win with The Fastbreak.

It was over when: The Gators extended their lead to 31 points with 13:44 to left in the game as senior forward Casey Prather completed an old-fashioned four-point play. Charging towards the hoop, Prather laid the ball in but drew a foul and went to the line. He missed the ensuing free throw but grabbed the rebound on the baseline and slammed it home to put UF up 66-35.

Prominent player: Prather continued to dominate just like he has all season, finishing 11-for-13 from the field for a game-high 27 points with five rebounds and three assists. He once again displayed great athleticism attacking the hoop and provided a ton of energy for his team on both ends of the court.

Significant stretch: Florida opened up the game by outscoring Jacksonville 19-7, using three triples from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II to take a double-digit lead just 3:45 into the game. UF never led by fewer than 11 points from that point forward. Frazier finished 5-for-6 from downtown, scoring 17 points on the evening.

Perfect play: With 9:47 remaining in the first half, Gators redshirt junior F Jacob Kurtz closed out on a three-pointer shot by Dolphins G Sam Hunt, rejecting it and powering the ball into the crowd. Two possessions earlier, Kurtz laid the ball in off a nice pass from junior guard Eli Carter, giving the emerging walk-on a couple nice plays in a row.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the…break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: No. 15 Gators chomp Dolphins 86-60

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No. 15 Florida basketball at Jacksonville preview; Wilbekin to play first game of 2013-14 season

Location: Veterans Memorial Arena – Jacksonville, FL [Capacity: 8,500]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

(15) FLORIDA GATORS JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Cliff Warren
Record: 4-1 Record: 2-3
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Atlantic Sun
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

TV: FOX Sports Florida* (Larry Vettel, Bill Koss) [Channel Finder]
* Game airing live in north and central Florida. Replay on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

SiriusXM: 119 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com [Blackout Map] | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Odds: OFF

PRE-GAME READING MATERIAL

» Story: Gators up to No. 13/15 in new top 25 polls
» Story: PG Scottie Wilbekin reinstated after six-game suspension
» Notebook: Florida vs. Middle Tennessee post-game report
» The Fastbreak: Breaking down No. 14/16 Florida running through MTSU 79-59

HISTORY / STATS / STREAKS

» Florida is 29-5 all-time against Jacksonville, boasting a 10-1 record under Donovan. UF is also 26-1 against current Atlantic Sun teams since Donovan took over.
» The Gators are 8-0 all-time at Veterans Memorial Arena.
» UF is set to play four of its next six games – contests that span from Nov. 25 to Dec. 21 – away from home starting with Monday’s contest against JU.
» Florida is playing its fourth game in the last 10 days.
» The Gators swept the Global Sports Challenge exempt event with four victories over North Florida, Arkansas-Little Rock, Southern and Middle Tennessee State.
» Florida is 4-3 against top-25 ranked opponents dating back to last season with all three losses coming away from its home court.
» The Gators are 58-8 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding opponent under 71 points in a game.
» Florida is 0-7 dating back to last season in games decided by single digits.
» UF’s defense has started off allowing just 59.2 points per game through five contests, making it the stingiest in the SEC. Four-straight opponents have failed to reach 60 points against the Gators.
» Donovan is looking for his 16th consecutive 20-win season. Florida has him ranked sixth all-time in that category behind only Dean Smith, Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tubby Smith and Jim Boeheim.
» Donovan (419) enters the game 29 wins behind Dale Brown (448) for second-most in SEC history. He is currently the longest-tenured head basketball coach in the league.

Continue Reading » No. 15 Florida basketball at Jacksonville preview; Wilbekin to play first game of 2013-14 season

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FOUR BITS: softball, tennis, baseball, basketball

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators softball (23-1) continued its stellar start to the 2013 season by upending the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (22-1) on Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, AL. Florida handed Alabama its first loss of the season in the non-conference showdown (the game was scheduled outside of league play) by scoring six runs in the final two innings to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 victory. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (11-1, 5.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R [2 ER], 3 BB, 5 K) threw well but was victimized by a pair of untimely errors before leaving the contest. Sophomore RHP Lauren Haeger (1.0 IP, 2 BB, 4 K) replaced her in relief and ensured that the Gators maintained the advantage they gained early in the top of the seventh. A two-RBI double by freshman pinch hitter Taylore Fuller (1/2, 2 RBI) put Florida ahead in the seventh. Haeger (2/3, RBI, R, BB), senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (2/4, RBI, R) and junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (2/4, RBI, R) each knocked in runs for the Gators.

2 » No. 5 Florida women’s tennis (8-2) bounced back from its tough loss on Sunday with a 4-0 sweep of the No. 16 Florida State Seminoles (8-3) on Wednesday in Tallahassee, FL. The Gators debuted some new doubles pairings in the contest after struggling to win the doubles point in recent matches. The switch worked out for Florida on Wednesday as it took the doubles point before running through singles action as No. 11 junior Sofie Oyen earned a 6-0, 6-1 victory, No. 1 Lauren Embree picked up a 6-1, 6-1 win, and No. 53 junior Alex Cercone took her match 6-4, 6-3. UF improved to 53-1 all-time against FSU, according to the school.

3 » Gators baseball (7-7) has fought hard over the last four games to get its record back to .500 after losing six-straight games from Feb. 20 to March 1. In a home-and-home series against the Jacksonville Dolphins (4-9) on Tuesday and Wednesday, Florida came from behind twice to pick up a pair of victories. On Tuesday, the Gators trailed 5-4 heading into the top of the seventh but scored four runs over the final three innings to pick up the 8-5 victory in Jacksonville, FL. Back at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, Florida rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth including a walk-off RBI single by sophomore PH Connor Mitchell (1/1, RBI) that brought home senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (3/4, 2 R, BB), who was intentionally walked earlier in the wild frame. UF looks to extend its four-game winning streak this weekend when it hosts Indiana for a three-game series from Friday-Sunday.

4 » Nine-seed Gators women’s basketball (18-13) delivered in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament on Thursday, taking down the eight-seed Arkansas Razorbacks (18-12) to advance to the quarterfinals against one-seed Tennessee on Friday at noon. Florida pulled off the 64-59 victory by going on a game-ending 10-2 run to erase a three-point deficit late in the contest. Junior guard Jaterra Bonds scored a game-high 17 points (12 in the second half) by hitting 10-of-12 free throws; she made just 3-of-10 field goals. Freshman G Sydney Moss also struggled from the field (3-of-11) but was just as solid from the line, draining 7-of-8 attempts to finish with 13 points.

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FOUR BITS: Hernandez, Muschamp, soccer, volley

1 » Only two weeks into the 2012 NFL regular season and a second former Florida Gators offensive starter has gone down with a serious injury. New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who had six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, got rolled up on during his team’s game on Sunday and seriously injured his ankle. Though the exact injury has not been announced publicly, it is believed that Hernandez suffered a high-ankle sprain as tests after the game revealed that he did not break any bones. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported Sunday that the Patriots are expecting Hernandez to be out up to six weeks, a timeframe consistent with a high-ankle sprain (as was the fact that he left the stadium on crutches with his foot/ankle in a protective boot). Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last week and will miss the rest of the season.

2 » A fan video posted on YouTube after the now-No. 14 Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers happened to catch head coach Will Muschamp celebrating. Check him and all of his Gator Chomps out below (you can skip to 0:30 if you wish):

3 » Since OGGOA’s last update on the team, Florida women’s soccer has remained somewhat average, now boasting a 4-3-1 (1-1-0 SEC) record just two games into league play. The Gators defeated New Mexico 3-2 at home on Sept. 9 to close out their non-conference schedule and split a pair of weekend road matches. Florida fell 2-1 to the Kentucky Wildcats (6-1-0, 1-0-0 SEC) on Friday, taking an early 1-0 advantage with a goal from redshirt senior forward McKenzie Barney at 13’ but allowing UK to score two unanswered goals (one in each half) on their way to victory. The Gators did just the opposite on Sunday, coming back from an early 1-0 deficit to force overtime and win just 10 minutes into the period. Florida took a 2-1 overtime victory over the Auburn Tigers (4-5-0, 0-2-0 SEC) thanks to strikes from senior midfielder Holly King (73’) and junior F Adriana Leon (100’). UF will now look to rely on some home cooking as the Gators host four-straight matches over the next two weekends.

4 » OGGOA was equally negligent in covering volleyball last week though No. 13 Florida (8-2, 2-0 SEC) has rattled off five-straight wins over the last two weekends. The Gators won the self-hosted Active Ankle Challenge in dominant fashion with big victories over the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-0: 25-18, 25-11, 25-11), Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (3-1: 25-15, 25-14, 23-25, 25-12) and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1: 22-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-22). On the Georgia Tech roster is former UF head coach Urban Meyer’s daughter Nicki Meyer, who registered 11 digs for GT.

Florida began league play this past weekend with a pair of road victories. The Gators earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 15-13) over the Arkansas Razorbacks (9-3, 0-1 SEC) on Friday before putting together a dominant 3-0 sweep (25-21, 25-14, 25-18) of the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats (6-5, 0-1 SEC) on Sunday. Junior middle back Chloe Mann led the way with a combined 25 kills on the weekend, but senior right side Tangerine Wiggs was equally impressive with a combined 23 kills of her own. Florida will host Missouri on Friday in their only action this week.

Extra BITS » Two OGGOA readers sent in pictures this week. The first, by baker Reuben Romney, is a cake he sold to a Florida State fan with orange and blue cake on the inside (they laughed). The second, by Ray, is a graphic representation of the nickname Hot Light Hammond, in reference to redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr.‘s play making and love for Krispy Kreme donuts.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, softball, lacrosse, Speights

1 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow rarely takes much time off from football and is already continuing to work on his game this offseason. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com, which spoke with new UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone on Wednesday, Tebow has been in Southern California since last weekend working on his quarterbacking. “He just came out here to throw and work on a few things and see if we can just become a little more efficient in what he’s doing,” Mazzone said. “Throwing motion, footwork, everything I work on with all my quarterbacks.” Ensuring that while he helps Tebow he is simultaneously not going against Denver’s teachings, Mazzone (who has also worked with the former Heisman Trophy winner in each of the last two offseasons) expects to continue training with him for at least four more days if not longer. The goal is to work on Tebow’s passing efficiency as he completed less than 50 percent of his throws a year ago. “It’s kind of like a golfer who hit that bad drive,” he said of Tebow’s motion. “Every other guy in the foursome can tell you what you did wrong and all three opinions are different. We’re just going out and kind of going back to the basics and working on some fundamentals to try and become a little more efficient.”

2 » No. 1/3 Florida Gators softball (6-0) routed the Jacksonville Dolphins (2-4) in their home opener on Wednesday, run-ruling the visitors 10-2 in six innings. Freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger, starting for the first time in Gainesville, FL, struck out seven batters her a complete game four-hitter and did not allow a single earned run in her outing. Finding a power stroke early this season, junior designated hitter Kelsey Horton (2-3) hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the second for Florida’s first runs of the game and finished the contest with three RBIs. Junior first baseman Ensley Gammel (1-2, R, BB) added a two-RBI double in the fourth, junior catcher Brittany Schutte (2-3, RBI, 2 R, BB) continued her hot start from the plate, and sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-1, 2 BB) crossed the plate three times. UF will conclude their four-game home stand with a Friday-Sunday series against Michigan State.

3 » Also taking on Jacksonville in their home opener on Wednesday, No. 4 Gators lacrosse (1-1) toppled the Dolphins (0-1) with a 14-5 rout thanks to a pair of five-goal performances from freshman midfielder Nora Barry and junior attacker Gabi Wiegand. Barry, who also tied a school record with six draw controls, added three ground balls and four forced turnovers in the match. Junior M Brittany Dashiell had a goal and three assists and was the only other Florida player with more than two shots on the evening (three), while junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher played strong in the box, tallying six saves while allowing just five goals. UF heads on the road Sunday to face UMBC in Baltimore, MD before returning to Gainesville for three-straight home games.

4 » Wednesday was a good night for two former Gators basketball players. Posting season-highs in minutes, points, rebounds and shooting (on more than five attempts), Memphis Grizzlies center Marreese Speights played 38 minutes and earned a double-double of 20 points (on 10-of-13 shooting) with 18 boards and two blocks. He led Memphis to a 105-100 win over New Jersey and has now performed very efficiently in three of his last four games. Over 1,500 miles away, forward Chandler Parsons and the Houston Rockets topped Oklahoma City 96-95 partially due to the former Florida player’s efforts. Parsons scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and filled his stat line with seven rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals.

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